The Touchy Feely Feelings Behind Food Allergies {Guest Post}

Motherhood definitely has it’s challenges. This blog is about being able to relate when you feel alone as well as moving past the yucky feelings of being “average.” As unifying as motherhood can be to women, certain aspects of it can be equally isolating. I’m grateful to my friend Amber for sharing a bit of her story as she tackles the challenging reality of severe allergies to just about everything for her kids. Even if this isn’t an issue for your family, I know you’ll be able to connect to her feelings with whatever challenge you face in your motherhood experience.

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I’ve spent the last several months absorbing anything I can about nutrition and food allergies. I think a good knowledge of nutrition is important, but for me it’s vital to getting my kids healthy. I’d suspected food allergy issues for years but it wasn’t until a frightening encounter with peanuts and a change in doctors that I got everything spelled out in black and white via blood allergy testing.

I’ve rambled on and on with friends and family about food ingredients and derivatives more than they probably care to hear about, but this might be because it keeps me from having to delve into the touchy-feely emotions surrounding our food.  People, addressing this side of our issue is not fun.

On the one hand I’m praising God that I’m only working with food allergies. On the other hand, I have to choke back tears when my kids watch the ice cream truck come up the street and see the neighbor kids running for it. Even simple trips to the grocery store are emotional. My almost-three-year old knows to be cautions with food and will pick up items asking, “What’s this have in it?” Only he’s asked me a million times now, so it comes out as one word, “Whatsthishaveinit?” I find notes on the kitchen counter from my seven year old that read, “Why do I always always always have to take a brake from derrey???” I’m the mean food police.

It would be nice if we were more like animals and just ate to live. But, we are not. We humans, and I think especially we Americans, have a strong emotional attachment to our food. I think it is even intensified another degree when you’re a stay-at-home mom. I know not all stay-at-home moms like to cook, but I’m one of those who did. Food was my thing, and I was pretty good at it. I have three-ring binders full of our favorite recipes. Right now I pretty much hate food. Yep, I said it. I hate food. Except sushi, which is weird because I never used to like it. If there were an allergy-friendly daily capsule I could give my kids that would fill their bellies and nourish them, I’d be first in line to buy a lifetime supply.

With a food allergy diagnosis, all of a sudden there is a lot of pressure on this parent to put the right foods on my kids’ plates. I’m the one who feeds them. I have been the one making them sick. I am the one who has to get them healthy. I have to process all the different theories and opinions on how to go about treating food allergies. I have to do the research to figure out what they can eat. Then I have to figure out what store sells it. Sometimes I’m on a wild goose chase for things I’ve never heard of before! It’s me who does the majority of the shopping and meal preparation. I’m the one who has to learn to cook from scratch all over again. And when I say “scratch,” I mean SCRATCH. Like make-your-own-breadcrumbs-and-powdered-sugar-scratch. Then I put it on the table and listen to my kids talk about how they don’t like it. And then I get mad. Not at them, of course. I’m mad that this wasn’t caught earlier, like WHEN I SAID THERE WAS SOMETHING WRONG (Pardon me for yelling in type, I sometimes do that when I’m frustrated). If they had been raised on alternative food then they wouldn’t know what they are missing.

My kids are going to be just fine. Lots of parents can’t say that and wish they were dealing with only a food allergy. My kids are going to be just fine, but it’s up to ME to figure it out and make the right choices for them. I think anyone who’s not been though a dietary change would be rolling their eyes right now. I’m sure they’d be like, “Seriously, what’s the big deal? It’s just food. Buy a different brand. Shut up and get over it.”

It’s not that easy though. When you’re dealing with this number of allergies and still have a lot of unknown variables, it is terribly hard. I wish I could sit here and type it out but I can’t because I don’t get it yet. There is still so much I don’t know, and I have a lot of genetic factors to consider. I don’t know why I can get my son well, but he doesn’t STAY WELL. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. We are still one week away from our appointment with the allergist. I hope to learn A LOT from the doctor, but I’ve been doing a lot of reading that suggests I still have a lot of work to do. Allergies are so different from one person to the next that I think I’ll just have to keep doing what I’m presently doing which is working myself in circles until my kids are well.

I am overwhelmed, but I take comfort in the verse that has been my mantra for the past year.

For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. Isaiah 41:13.

Maybe I’ll just get it tattooed on my forehead or something.

Amber is a mom to 2 wonderful children and is trying to figure out her new normal after both kids were recently diagnosed with severe food allergies. She now spends her spare time researching and concocting new ways to keep her kids healthy.

 

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4 thoughts on “The Touchy Feely Feelings Behind Food Allergies {Guest Post}

  1. Renee

    I hear ya mama! My youngest just got diagnosed with a host of food allergies (milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, tomatoes and banana) – some of them severe. Totally flipped my world upside down! At first I was pretty non-chalant about things. Food allergies? Really? Well, that explains alot. Hmmmm… OK! We’ll work with it! That night I lost a bit of sleep and when I woke up the next morning feeling like it had been a nightmare (not an understatement) I think it hit me – it’s reality, and it sucks. Thankfully she is only 12 months old so plenty of time for her to grow out of them (please God, let her grow out of them), but the process has been tough nonetheless. She’s still nursing b/c for so long she couldn’t swallow food – we thought it was severe reflux or even a blockage in her intestines but an upper GI ruled that out (scary to think about the fact it was likely swelling in her throat and I had no idea! I knew something was going on, but figured it was maybe one or two food sensitivities… I never imagined the wide range of the actual diagnosis). I don’t want to think about weaning her until I know she’s getting what she needs from regular food. Making things more… complex?… I found out around that same time that I am expecting #4. Trying to feed myself, her, and grow a new little bean on such a limited diet is exhausting to say the least. I thought maybe I could cheat a little bit with my diet, but just sneaking in some Ranch dressing led to a sleepless night for both of us b/c it upset her stomach so bad. I’m looking forward to your posts b/c you have put into words so much of what I have been feeling these past few weeks.

    Reply
  2. Mary Kiley

    Hi Amber,
    I saw your link on the “Women Living Well” Website. I must say I’ve never left a comment on any blog before but when I read yours I had to. I have a 15 year old son who was diagnosed at two years old with Peanut and Tree Nut Allergies. (It sounds like you are faced with more than just one allergy). I understand your frustration, food really is an emotional thing. It is tied so closely to every celebration. It is often used as a reward for children…if you eat your veggies you’ll get dessert, etc. It can be really tough for a kid (and their family) with food allergies.
    You’re probably aware of The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, (FAAN) but just in case I thought I’d send the info. to you. The organization is my go-to resource whenever I have any questions related to my son’s food allergy. When Brendan was in Grammar School his teacher let me come in and talk to the class about his food allergies. I asked the students to help me come up with some ideas about how we could keep Brendan safe. They were amazing. They were so excited to share their thoughts and ideas. At the end I gave everyone bracelets that I ordered from FAAN.
    They had the acronym P.A.L. “Protect A Life” written on them. I told them how lucky Brendan was to have so many PALS looking out for him. I’ve found kids to be the best advocates for friends with food allergies. It was never more evident than when Brendan was at his friend Stephen’s 5th Birthday party. His mom walked into the room with a candle lit birthday cake, everyone was singing when the Birthday boy yelled “Wait! Stop! Mom is that cake safe for Brendan?” All the other kids stopped and said, “Is that safe for Brendan?!” My eyes filled up. They may have been little but they understood how dangerous food allergies can be.
    Needless to say, I thanked them all before we began our second rousing rendition of Happy Birthday.
    I wish you the best. I promise it gets better the more you learn and the more you can educate others. It is a way of life for our family. I always tried to get the info out without being “the crazy peanut lady”. With a little leg work and planning we manage at restaurants and social events. In the 13 years since his diagnosis we’ve only had to use the EpiPen once as a precaution.
    I know you’re children are still young and that makes it scary but I can say, Brendan was a pretty popular guy on the play date circuit. In my unbiased mom opinion, he’s a great kid who always showed up at friends’ houses with a home baked treat for everyone! (along with an epipen). Snacks are an inevitable part of a play date. By providing the snack, it took the worry out of play dates for me as well as the host Mom.
    Good Luck,
    You can find FAAN at http://www.foodallergy.org

    Sincerely,

    Mary

    Reply
  3. Melanie

    Thank you so much for this post. My youngest was diagnosed with a long list of food allergies at 15 months old and my world was turned upside down! I’ll admit that it gets easier with time, but I live overseas and face challenges of finding substitutes, explaining what food allergies are in a place where they are not common, riding airplanes with fear that someone on the plane is going to open a bag of peanuts, and watching waiters to make sure they don’t slip my kid a “goodie” that could kill them. Just last night, a waiter gave my son a sweet with cashews in it…I wasn’t paying attention…there was drama, throwing up, hives and the epi pen was armed and ready. Thankfully, the benadryl took care of it before it got to that point, but that was the closest call we’ve ever had. After all the drama, my non-allergy son (4 yrs old) began sobbing. He felt responsible for his brothers reaction because he didn’t ask the waiter what was in the sweet before he gave it my allergy son. Food allergies can be a very emotional thing to deal with and it doesn’t just affect the kid who has the allergies…it affects the whole family.

    Reply
  4. HopeUnbroken

    just nodding my head in understanding and appreciation for what you’re going through, amber.
    i have two with food allergies, and it is the emotional aspect that gets me. almost every day.
    and no, others don’t get it. at least, not until they invite you over for dinner and try to figure out what to serve you and your kiddos 🙂 then it dawns on them, the daily grind of it all.
    i try to look at it as an education–both for myself and for them.
    but most days it’s just a royal pain.
    and a lot of shed tears.
    praying for you on your journey and trusting that God will continue to hold you–giving you the practical help you need along the way.
    blessings,
    steph

    Reply

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